For the sake of argument I’m assuming that the Marines killed the civilians in cold blood. Maybe, maybe not. It is reported that one civilian was armed. If he’d fired at the Marines he got what he deserved. Be that as it may, let’s assume that a few Marines ran amok and killed the civilians. If they hadn’t taken fire, why would they target the people sheltering inside the nearby residences? Maybe it’s because they were sheltering inside instead of going about their normal business. That means they knew the Marines were driving into an ambush and did nothing to warn the Marines. They must have been aware of the IED being planted. In any neighborhood, anywhere in the world, the locals always know when something fishy is going on. Setting up an IED counts as fishy business. So, the Marines realized that the locals were complicit in the death of one of their own. And, if the locals were complicit by their silence, they were no better than the terrorists who planted the IED in the first place.

Come to think of it, isn’t that why Moussaoui went down? It wasn’t because he had any direct hand in 9/11. It was because he failed to tell the FBI the attack was going down. If it wasn’t for one faithless juror, Moussaoui would be on death row.

So, what’s the difference?

Well, maybe the civilians were intimidated by the bad guys. But one of the civilians was armed. He could have stood up to the thugs planting the bomb. More likely, they were all members of the same Arab tribe, and tribe outranks decency, humanity and the law.

The idea of collective responsibility is anathema in Western society. But, if we don’t recognize that the terrorists in Iraq exploit and depend upon tribal loyalty to do their evil, we can’t succeed. In this dirty war, the US should change the rules of engagement to say that anyone in the vicinity of an IED explosion will be regarded as an unlawful enemy combatant and treated accordingly.

Or maybe the US isn’t serious about this war.